My first “MMO” turns 20

My first online gaming experience (as I’m sure many other will remember) was playing MUDs or Multi-user Dungeons.  For those of you who don’t know, MUDs are text based online games.  Being text based does allow them to focus on other areas as they don’t have to worry about the graphics.  This allows them to have really in-depth and well thought out systems that other MMOs can’t match.  The MUD I started with and continue to play has been Avalon, the legend lives. You can tell the Avalon certainly has been influenced by Tolkien, but pulls in influences from a whole host of different areas.  Recently Acheron’s Call celebrated their 10th anniversary which is impressive, but shortly there-after I got the message about Avalon’s 20th and I was amazed.  More impressive for me was that there are many of the folks around that I remember from when I first started, similar numbers of players online, and lots of new folks.

I first started playing Avalon with a friend of mine in college and was completely hooked as it allowed for my imagination to fill in the pictures and the depth of the world was amazing.  We just stumbled upon it looking for other games and it didn’t take long to get hooked.  There’s crafting, city politics, guilds, divinities, open PvP, wide-scale warfare, farming/labors, and an amazingly detailed combat system.  Just touching on crafting for a moment, there are herbs, poisons, weapons, armor, potions, runes, food, and probably a few others that I’m missing.  Each of these categories has around 30ish options and different ways they can be paired together that not only apply when you start but also are used at the higher levels.  There are options for those who don’t want to fight and there are so many things to do that I more find myself struggling to pick what to do when I log on.  I ended up getting a lifetime subscription at some point and that has allowed me to come and go when either I needed to or wanted to, and as such I’ve been off/on playing Avalon for 15 years now.

I’ve actually started back up again this week as with the 20th anniversary they announced quite a few new features and systems which I wanted to try out.  Despite my current gaming (Dragon’s Age and LOTRO) there’s still a part of me that misses a detailed PvP system.  I enjoy PvP with LOTRO but it is too quick and there’s really no risk there and as such not the same reward.  Basically PvP with LOTRO is usually over quite quickly and for Freeps there’s really only bragging rights as a reward.  With MUDs however (I’ve played a couple, but this mainly based on Avalon) the fighting has a much faster pacing and there’s a good amount of risk/reward.  I really have to be on my toes and there are so many attacks, defenses, buffs, de-buffs and all sorts of ways to counter them.  Fights usually last on the order of minutes not seconds like in MMOs and are full of counter-punch moments.  Momentum plays a key part in fighting but it certainly it is possible to counter it.  Also, numbers aren’t on the same magnitude as most MMOs so the battles are usually on smaller scales so small groups/teams not huge zergs.

There certainly is a part of fighting that’s just for bragging rights, but it also gets involved in politics and warfare, and there is a world-wide contests for crowning divinities that are mainly combat oriented.  Team based fighting becomes key in many areas and the ways the different classes interact adds a whole other level to the combat system.  I play a Ranger which is more of a stealthy class so for me its really helpful to have some heavy hitters around such that I can disable foes and they can smack them around.

I’m still in the process of remembering all the things I forgot and getting my equipment all squared away but expect to be up and running for real here shortly.  It will be a very nice play balance for me as Avalon scratches a different itch that currently just isn’t there in LOTRO and vice versa.


3 responses to “My first “MMO” turns 20

  1. You are talking about three things:

    1.) first MMO experiences
    2.) PvP in modern MMOs and…
    3.) … why it sucks

    1.) My first true MMO experience was Ultima Online. This is probably why I always favor the skill-based approached over the level based quest-driven EverQuest style. Guild Wars was something new that I also thoroughly enjoy(ed).

    2.) Open World PvP is dead since Trammel was introduced to Ultima Online. The Everquest DIKU heritage system we have in most MMOs nowadays is even worse for PvP, nevertheless every player seems to demand it. The very moment they get it and get killed, they call for restrictions to prevent getting ganked from higher level players, not everywhere, and actually… in the end devs have to bring balance to inherently imbalanced classes that were never really made to fight against each other. Plus restrict PvP or make it meaningless, which usually ends in instanced battlegrounds or small scale arenas.

    3.) Why PvP is meaningless is because we cannot lose anything anymore. Even Death is mostly meaningless and only slightly annoying. But the system is so much based on gear gain that nobody can justify that a thing you raided weeks for suddenly gets lost / looted, whatever. The (perma)DEATH of your player char is totally out of question. You might unsubscribe, after all, hehe…

    But this creates the neverending progression related problems of power creep and eternal boredom which results in a death spiral of boredom and just adding more things to be consumed faster and faster till the player finds every single aspect of the game he once loved sucks hard.

    We already see LOTRO and WoW going ahead slower and slower – 5 instead of 10 levels, content extenders in form of daily quests and rep grinds an all that.

    I guess the better answer would be to make the world more meaningful and allow more player interaction besides item greed and combat. And this is not restricted to the usual “meaningful crafting” people mention, but interacting with the world in away that right now is not possible. I can only click mobs and certain nodes, but I cannot damage a tree, harvest wood, all that. Even player housing was already much more sophisticated in times of Ultima Online, LOTRO makes houses generic trophy storage rooms in instances. It is quite nice to have a house, and non-instanced housing is problematic, as Ultima Online has shown.

    I think skirmishes are the first clumsy attempt to create compelling content, it still needs to be instanced, but maybe Guild Wars 2 will manage to do it and create world-spanning events that players can jump right into and do something, without having to form parties of this or that size or entering special instances.

    I am almost going off-topic, the TL;DR version is that pvp in contemporary MMOs sucks because the games are not truly build around death, defeat, or loss. They are neverending questing and gaining gear, and before this is not changed pvp will always be some kind off odd additional e-sports on top of the DIKU MUD without death.

    • wow, lotta good thoughts there! 🙂

      1) I never played UO, but I also think the original Galaxies build was a bit more skill dependant and not level based.

      For me, 2&3 are linked together – I agree PvP in general has its issues with griefing and all which is pretty hard to deal with. I think there needs to be more of a focus on rewards, but enough penalties/losses to put some fear in it. It is interesting, I remember when I first started avalon I got really upset when folks killed me and very frustrated – but over the years it is now just part of the game and I actually enjoy that process of dying and having items stolen as it makes the gains that much more rewarding!

      For me, my favorite MMO PvP experience was DAOC – but I also enjoy the Avalon MUD aspect as the fighting progression allows for the potential of ordination. Why I liked DAOC was that there was a connect between PvP and PvE but nothing game-breaking. And by this I mean that with advances in PvP you could get additional skills that would make your character better. Also, they had the battlegrounds which created level based PvP – some of my favorite times were in Thidranki (the level 20 battleground) as these created not only learning grounds but a market for high quality items at all levels, not just end-game.

      Your last statement there I think is spot on though!

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